With election day approaching next week in various parts of this country, and fascinating (in different ways) campaigns under way in France and the US, I started reading How to Win an Election by Quintus Tullius Cicero. This is a rather lovely book, a letter of advice to the famous Cicero from his down-to-earth brother. It has the Latin text opposite a translation by Philip Freeman, and is the perfect size for reading in those suspended moments on the campaign trail.
It is extraordinary how little politics has changed since 64 B.C.:
“The most important part of your campaign is to bring hope to people and a feeling of goodwill toward you. On the other hand, you should not make specific pledges, either to the Senate or the people. Stick to vague generalities.”
“If you break a promise, the outcome is uncertain and the number of people affected is small. But if you refuse to make a promise, the result is certain and produces immediate anger in a large number of voters.”
There is some disarmingly cynical advice on every page. No wonder brother Marcus won the election by a landslide. A highly commended self-help book for all candidates.